Good morning! It’s update time again – and in the great tradition of this series, I interview myself during the dead time of year for people reading this blog (I still get good statistics for these from people searching for me through the year!). I first interviewed myself on Christmas Eve 2011, and the first follow-up was in December 2012. Then, when I asked myself where I wanted to be now, I replied: “I’ve got some personal plans bubbling away, and I’d like to be training for a marathon in the next year or two. Business-wise, I would like it to be pretty well as it is now – a good roster of interesting regular clients keeping me busy and keeping my income steady”. Hm – I note that I didn’t mention the book I was in the middle of writing there! Anyway, let’s see what I did get done, as I take stock of the past year.
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
It hasn’t been the best year personally, and I’m not training for a marathon, although I’ve maintained my regular gym habit and really enjoy that as a way of letting off steam, uncrunching my back and having some human contact! I have made the adjustments I wanted to make in terms of having more time for myself and my hobbies; I have read more books, taken more holidays (well, two short UK breaks) and had more time with my friends, family and Matthew than I did in 2012. I have many of the same clients as I had this time last year, which is lovely, with some new ones, and although my income has dropped a bit, I’m still fine and comfortable.At the time of the last interview, I was planning to finish and publish a book on my experiences in my first year of full-time self-employment, and I did do that, eventually, with the book, Going it Alone at 40, coming out in April.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
My customer base has changed slightly. I lost one big contract through no fault of my own, when the year of a particular transcription agency handling a big regular conference came to an end. And I terminated my agreements with a couple of other clients when I made the decision in the spring to do less evening and weekend work and claim my life back again. I’ve been doing less student work, and it’s funny to think that originally I thought that that was all that I would be doing, full stop. I decided to pass on the Master’s coaching I’d been doing, as it was a lot of short-notice and urgent work and I felt unable to commit to supporting more people through that process this year.
A really good change is the fact that I’ve built up a list of great people onto whom I can recommend prospective clients who I can’t fit in, some of whom have been covering time off for me. It’s absolutely brilliant to know that I can take time off when I need to, and someone will look after my clients to a high standard and hand them back to me afterwards – it’s such a hard thing to work out when you’re working on your own, and I’m very lucky to have those people!
I’m pleased that I have so many of the same clients that I had this time last year. I am grateful for their continued custom and love working with them; I’ve built a close relationship with some of them and it’s lovely to have those chatty moments among the emails. I’ve continued to try to ‘give back’ as much as possible, helping at Social Media Surgeries, giving informal mentoring support to new colleagues and keeping putting information out there on the blog for free about careers, editing, language, etc.
Another thing that’s changed is that I got engaged to Matthew in July, and we’ll be getting married next spring!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learned that it is possible to take holidays or be ill and know that someone has your back. I’ve also learned that people search for odd things but if you look at what they search for, or listen to what people ask about, you can tailor your blog to suit them and help more people. I’ve learned that I can write and publish a reasonably successful book (or three) and that being edited is harder than you think it is if you only see the editor’s side of it (I blogged about that here at the time, and drew some more general conclusions later in the year – very useful for my professional development!).
Any more hints and tips for people?
Keep looking at your return on investment and checking that you’re the right fit for your clients, and they’re the right fit for you. I keep an eye on the profitability of my clients and the way that I fit their needs, and don’t hesitate to adjust matters if it’s not working.
Keep working on your professional development – I’ve learnt about new translation software (used for localisation in my case) and experienced what it’s like to be one of my clients, being edited by someone.
Don’t get buried in the work – come up for air and make sure you keep a life.
It’s worth outsourcing – I hired an accountant this year and they sorted out my last year’s bank reconciliation, send me useful newsletters when there’s a budget by the government, and are keeping me on my toes with my admin this year.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I’ve just published a short guide to transcription as a career, but I want to get my next main book, tentatively called Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business after the Start-up Phase, completed, edited and out in January or February. That should bump up my ‘passive income’ from book sales, and I might even manage a print edition of Going it Alone at 40. We’ll be married by this time next year, and I’ll not have worked on our honeymoon!
I’m also hoping to have a more crafty and creative 2014. I’ve been inspired to get out the sewing machine again, and to think about taking a few courses. I made some of my Christmas cards this year, and most of my wrapping paper, and would like to continue playing around with stamps and ink in 2014!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.